The Royal Navy, Ruler of the Seas

The Pig War

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Baynes opposed the military views of Governor Douglas, who was in all probability not fully aware of the implications of an armed intervention. The rear-admiral preferred to let the American troops occupy the island. He already had five warships, and two others, the HMS Topaze with 51 cannon and the HMS Clio with 22, were to join them imminently. If war were to break out, the British, with their naval superiority in the Pacific, would be able to hem the American soldiers in on the island and bombard cities in Oregon and California. London wanted to avoid war, however, and the Prime Minister made this absolutely clear to Governor Douglas, which did something to cool his ardour. The government in Washington was also not keen to get involved in the matter, and the hot-tempered General Harney was replaced by General Winfield Scott, who had been instructed to negotiate a joint occupation of the island until the two governments could reach agreement, which is precisely what happened in the end. In March 1860 a British marine detachment took up a position in the northern part of the island. The dispute continued for years, and it was only in November 1872, after the signing of the Treaty of Washington, that the British soldiers withdrew once and for all. 123 Fortunately for everyone, only the pig was killed throughout this whole "war."